Racing Racine!

I have so many mixed emotions about this race. On one hand I set a new 70.3 PR, ran my half-marathon about the same pace as my last open half and had a great day out on the Racine 70.3 course. On the other hand I know there are a few dull spots of the day where I could have sighted better, raced smarter or found a fifth gear instead of sitting in four. Can I just say I love the half distance? It's a fun beast... particularly after nearly five hours of racing:

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But let's back up. I'm not particularly superstitious but so many good signs the day before:

  • All of my numbers were palindromes: race number (#959), hotel room (#535), the nail polish name of the color I happened to pick for my pre-race mani ("The 101").
  • The bike thief responded on Saturday and is willing to set up an exchange. I'm now waiting to hear from my detective as to when this meeting will go down. YES!
  • Out biking the course the morning before, I ran into Amanda—who managed to recognize the Rev3 gear and yell at me from across the road. Of all the places I'd ever expect to bump into someone.... thankfully that gave me a bike and swim buddy for the rest of the pre-race activities!
  • Ran into Rinny at my hotel as she was wheeling her bike into a side entrance. Instead of spazzing out like last time and getting all nervous, I held the door open for her and then we shared an elevator. Proximity to greatness leads to greatness, right? ; )

I knew going into Sunday that I either had luck on my side or used it all up on Saturday! Sunday morning came bright and early and I managed to get to the race site super early, set up in the super-tight transition without issue and then stroll the mile down the beach to the start. I warmed up in the water, we watched the pros head off and I started to get psyched up about tackling the big surf and strong waves that had popped up seemingly overnight.

The swim was a strugglefest. The first 20 yards involved running through the surf and then fighting against the waves rolling in to get out to the straightaway. I was redlining very early on and accidentally gulped several mouthfuls of Lake Michigan water as I struggled against the rolling waves. Honestly, this made my Rev3 Williamsburg swim last month feel like a cakewalk. I felt like I was getting abused, tossed around, up and down, and nearly lost my breakfast once or twice as the surf tossed me like a human buoy.

Between some poor sighting on my part and running up against earlier waves, I found myself far outside the buoy line at least two times and struggled to swim back on course. I also started to run into the waves ahead of us early on, and so between some of their yellow caps and the orange caps in my wave, sighting against the orange and yellow buoys was essentially worthless. There was a crane I could have sighted off of—mental-noted this on my practice swim the day before—but completely forgot in the madness. I had counted the buoys to find halfway and set my watch to vibrate at intervals and started freaking out when I hit 15-minutes and was still a buoy away from the halfway mark.

I ended up swimming in for 34-ish minutes, which was a bit of a let-down for me. Granted, the announcer let us know the male pros had come out of the water around 25-minutes so I tried to take it with a grain of salt but found myself annoyed with my less-than-stellar swim.

Up to the kind of crowded transition, through the wetsuit strippers (OMG new favorite thing!) and up the serious hill out of transition to get out on the bike course. Nothing special to say about the bike other than I put my head down and hammered but the pace felt sustainable. I think bike camp is finally paying its dividends!

I miiiiight have cursed out loud at the chip seal a number of times, whether it felt like I was knocking my collarbone screws out of place with the continual tha-dunk-a-dunk-a-dunk of the chipseal every 10ft or when I managed to spill half a bottle of perform all over myself with a poorly-timed pour. I swear on Monday I was more sore from the whiplash from road conditions than any other muscle soreness! Some of this contributed to a mental lull on the back-half of the course but somehow I was able to keep the effort somewhat consistent.

Also, apparently we rode past some barns:

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I'll also pause here to say that I am absolutely in love with my Quintana Roo and ISM saddle... what a slick yet comfy ride!

But the last miles ticked away and gels were put down the hatch and I was rolling back into T2. A quick change and out on the run course and mile one clocked in at 7:20. Whoops! That was not the plan! The good thing about trusting your training and trusting your coach is that I made the slightly risky decision to keep plugging away instead of pulling back. And it paid off! (I also think some of my recent masochistic treadmill workouts may be to blame...)

I loved the two loop course because it offered a chance to run alongside the pros (I passed one and got passed by more than a few as they headed out on their second loop) but also to scope out your competition. I didn't exactly know where I was sitting in either my age group or overall but just before the first turn-around I saw amazing Amanda FLYING and tried to do the mental math... only to realize she had eight or nine minutes on me and was only extending her lead! That was a tough pill to swallow but had I only known she was blowing all of us away with a 13-minute lead on second place, I would have rested a little easier. Instead, I got passed by speedster Kristy and felt my heart drop as I saw the 26 on her calf and realized I had dropped to at least second in my age group.

It was then a race to hold onto second in my age group, or so I thought. Somewhere around mile nine I staved off an attempted pass by someone who had been breathing heavy on my shoulder and could tell she was a girl by the spectators cheering for us. I was absolutely convinced she was in my age group and so ran the last few minutes scared witless that I was going to get nipped at the finish.

Even though I was running scared, however, I didn't really turn on the heat until about a mile or so to go. I might have settled a tiny bit, which I'm not exactly proud of. I'm kicking myself some that I didn't fire it up earlier but the last mile was definitely solid. The last 300 or so, I was definitely gasping for breath and finding my dark place coming down the chute. I ended up coming in right around my previous half-marathon PR (pre-triathlon, set in 2009) for a 1:36 and 4:45 overall. Death, personified:

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It wasn't until I had hobbled through for my medal, reloaded on some full-calorie coke and snagged my phone from the rental car that the day began to sink in. My resignation to 2nd in my age group somehow became excitement at 3rd overall as folks texted me congrats.

The one thing I was most disappointed in was that there was no overall age group awards, compared to all other major 70.3 races I've attended. I was SO looking forward to this but they skipped the overall awards entirely (not to mention short-changed the pro awards a bit) and then frenetically raced through all of the age groups. It felt like a cattle auction—could not have taken more than 10 minutes total with the announcer yelling out total finishers, one breath per age group.... clearly racing with Rev3 has spoiled me. ;)

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Actually, I think this is one of the few times the 25-29 was the most stacked age group. Amanda made us take an awkward AG photo and I think the group pictured ended up taking 2nd-4th overall as well as 1,2,3 in the age group:

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In the end, I got to share the overall podium with some speedy chicks and this whole getting fast thing is starting to seem like more and more of a possibility. And with that said, the big kahuna is just around the corner, with Mont Tremblant looming large on my schedule. Even though I cannot fathom repeating Sunday times two, I cannot wait! : )